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Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

Conversation with a Purpose

Wednesday, October 7th, 2015

rick-harry_smGuest Post by Sondra Thiederman, Ph.D.

I confess – I pilfered the title of this article from a man who was renowned as a wise and insightful pathfinder in the field of diversity, Dr. Roosevelt Thomas. A sample of that wisdom is seen in his statement, “Dialogue is conversation with a purpose.” In essence, he is saying that, in order to have real dialogue, we need to know what we want to accomplish during the conversation – we need to set a goal.

Let’s face it, goal setting is important in any aspect of life. If, for example, we dream of a trip to Paris, but neglect to set a goal of saving the amount of money required, the chances of us ever dining at the top of the Eiffel Tower are pretty slim. That’s because we will spend small amounts on other things along the way and get off track.

The same principle applies to conversation. If we don’t know what we want to accomplish, we won’t make the word and attitude choices that will get us to that goal. It is especially likely that we will get off track if we have a strong emotion associated with the interaction. Here are a couple of examples of what I’m talking about along with the kinds of productive goals you might set for each incident.

Example 1: You have been offended by what someone has said or done.
Possible Goals:
A. To embarrass the person and make him or her feel guilty
B. To educate the person about your point of view

As tempting as option “A” might be (let’s be honest, “guilt-tripping” is sometimes tinged with a perverse personal satisfaction), the most productive answer is “B.” Guilt is, after all, rarely a good motivator of change. Your act of trying to make the other person feel guilty will accomplish little more than making them defensive and, in turn, become utterly unable to listen to what you have to say.

Example 2: You have made a clumsy or ignorant remark that you think might have offended someone around you.
Possible Goals:
A. To show respect for your colleagues by calling attention to what you did and apologizing.
B. To minimize the importance and impact of what you said by ignoring it.

The goal here is “A.” The very fact that you are willing to take responsibility for your error shows, not only that you want to communicate respect, but that you are prepared to model truly inclusive behavior.

To return to Dr. Thomas – “Dialogue is conversation with a purpose.” I think he would agree that, if we don’t know where we are going – whether it be in conversation or in life — we just might end up someplace we’d rather not be.

This article is excerpted from the video program, Gateways to Inclusion: Turning Tense Moments Into Productive Conversations, which features Sondra and a variety of vignettes depicting these concepts.

Sondra Thiederman can be contacted for webinars or in-person presentations. For additional information, go to http://thiederman.com

© copyright 2013 Sondra Thiederman, Ph.D.

 

 

 

Beware of These Common Cognitive Biases

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2015

If critical thinking was easy, everyone would do it.

Every day we are faced with cognitive challenges to effective thinking. From emotions to unchecked assumptions and ambiguous data, we constantly make decisions without applying the rigors of critical thinking. Cognitive biases are frequent barriers to rational thought and effective decision making, but we are rarely conscious of our own biases.

Here’s a great graphic from Business Insider (see just below) that shows 20 of the most popular cognitive biases in decision making. (more…)

10 Guidelines for Ethical Leadership

Monday, June 8th, 2015

If you have the responsibility of leading and influencing others, it’s important that you remain aware of the impact you have on them in the area of integrity and ethics. Employees who see ethical behavior modeled by their manager or supervisor are more likely to act in kind. Additionally, employees who rate their leader as “ethical” typically have greater job satisfaction and higher levels of commitment.Ethics 4 Everyone video

Here are 10 guidelines for ethical leadership, along with corresponding action steps to help you put the guidelines into practice: (more…)

Why Transparency Matters

Tuesday, May 12th, 2015

Alcon_group1Transparency in business – it’s become quite the buzzword. And like all buzzwords, it’s easy to think of it as just another fad. It’s also easy for an organization to pay lip service to the idea without ever following through. But transparency is important for everyone: employees, leaders, customers, and — for publicly-held companies — stockholders.

Here’s how it impacts each group.

1. Employees
When employees are clear about the “why” behind their assigned projects and tasks, they’re much more prepared to do what needs to be done – which could include them making suggestions for improvements that would otherwise never have been imagined, simply because there wasn’t enough information available.
Educate every employee about the importance and relevance of what they’re asked to do, and you’ll have a more motivated, thoughtful, and productive workforce. Keep them in the dark, and you’re inviting mistakes, lackadaisical performance, and disengagement.
(more…)

You’re Not the Enemy

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015

bluecollar4Put people into a situation where they disagree, and pretty soon they’re squaring off at each other, each one digging in their heels and working hard to find reasons why they’re right and the other person is wrong.

We all do it. We do it in business meetings, in customer service situations, with colleagues, and even with the people we love most. It seems logical. After all, we want to win the argument. We want the other person to back down, to admit that we know best, to go along with what we want. Of course, that’s exactly what the other person wants as well. So there you are, each of you getting more and more frustrated and angry. In extreme cases, the conversation gets destructive and relationships fall apart.

And yet, there’s one simple concept that changes the whole scenario. What if neither of you was the enemy? What if, despite the fact that you’re disagreeing about something, you could come together as partners to find a way through, instead of battling it out?

It’s a radical shift that creates radical results. And you don’t even have to tell the other person what you’re doing. Just say to yourself, “This person is not the enemy,” and see how it changes how you feel and think, and what you say and do.

Recommended training resource: The barriers that go up between departments and individuals within an organization are destructive, and they can seem insurmountable. Of course, so too, did the Berlin Wall. In our program Tearing Down Walls, renowned management consultant, author, and speaker Dr. Stephen R. Covey uses the tearing down of the Berlin Wall as a powerful metaphor for the ways that people within organizations can break down the barriers between departments.

 

Unspoken Feedback

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

Leadership TrainingEver wonder what your employees are thinking about you?

If so, you’re probably a better-than-average leader who takes the time to observe body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice, so you can tell when someone’s frustrated, confused, or just plain upset about something that’s happened.

But even in the best of manager/employee relationships, you’re probably not going to get the type of  in-depth honest feedback that might help you make real changes. Even in organizations where 360-degree reviews are consistently used, feedback isn’t always timely – or completely honest.

So what’s a manager to do when s/he wants to improve?

It goes back to observation, and to caring about what your team thinks and feels.

It’s not hard to learn how people act when they’re upset, hurt, frustrated, or angry.

It’s not hard to notice when something you’ve done has triggered their reaction.

It can be hard to be honest enough with yourself to acknowledge the connection between your actions and their reactions, and to be vulnerable enough to explore how you might do things differently in the future. (more…)

6 Tell-Tale Symptoms of the Abilene Paradox

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

Team Effectiveness TrainingIn our previous article we wrote about a humorous family “trip to Abilene” and the concept of the Abilene Paradox.  We also discussed
how the Paradox affects us in both our personal and work lives.   Today, we’ll explore six tell-tale symptoms of the Paradox.

Remember that professor Jerry Harvey described the Abilene Paradox as the inability to manage agreement rather than the inability to manage conflict.  This inability to manage agreement is the essential symptom that defines individuals and organizations caught in the web of the Abilene Paradox.

Consider this workplace scenario:

Sue, Tony, Jasmine and their manager, Chris, all have strong reservations about implementing a proposed procedural change.  Individually, each one is convinced the change will cause more problems than it will solve.  BUT, because the proposed change was suggested by a highly-paid consultant, and because no one else is voicing their concerns, each individual claims to support the plan (when they really don’t). The procedural change goes forward…seemingly with unanimous consent.  Later, when troubling operational issues surface, the  group members get annoyed with  one another and blame the consultant for giving bad advice. Eventually—despite a hefty investment in the flawed new procedure—the organization decides to go back to the old way of doing things.  Susan, Tony, Jasmine and Chris never discuss the matter again. (more…)

Not Just for Bedtime Any More

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

Story Telling for Customer Service TrainingStory-telling is proving to be far more than just the latest training fad. As reported in the July/August  issue of Training Magazine, major companies in industries ranging from high tech and high finance to high touch – and everything in between – are turning to story-telling as a powerfully effective way to inform, engage, and educate at every level of the organization.

Companies such as Sprint, the Ritz-Carlton, Hewlett-Packard, and many others both on and off the Fortune 500 list are embracing story-telling for everything from leadership development to customer service training and employee recognition programs. In fact, it seems like there’s no educational or communication initiative that doesn’t respond well to a little (or a lot of) story-telling.

So how can you bring story-telling into your organization’s training efforts?

  1. Start with a clearly-defined project.

A project like new employee orientation would be good for several reasons. With onboarding, there are typically clear objectives, clear learning points, and you can easily determine how well new hires integrate into the organization.  Onboarding presents opportunities to tell the story of how the company got started, along with stories that reflect the values and culture of the organization. (Other test project options could include the rollout of a new technology, a new leadership-development program, or the announcement of a new policy.) (more…)

5 Tips for Employee Engagement and Retention

Friday, September 12th, 2014

Bob_computerWhen it comes to retaining and motivating your best, most highly-skilled workers, here are five important things to remember:

People want to work in a positive, supportive atmosphere.  Leaders set the tone by communicating well and being available to support problem solving.

People want to grow and be challenged.  Leaders can support employees’ attempts to keep learning and broadening their skills, and can mindfully assign challenging tasks.

People are motivated by different things, not just financial compensation.  Leaders can become more aware of what encourages each individual to achieve his or her best. (more…)


 

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